“Steely Man”: The “Night Flight” inspired video from 1984’s summer dud “Grandview U.S.A.”

By on May 7, 2018

A little shy of two-and-a-half-hours into this uncut three-hour episode of “Night Flight” — originally airing on July 27, 1984, and now streaming on Night Flight Plus — we came across the video for Frank Musker’s “Steely Man,” a song from the 1984 summer movie dud Grandview U.S.A., a feature-length faux-musical set somewhere in smalltown Midwest.

What made this a real headscratcher for us, though, was the fact that, in the theatrically-released movie, before he dreamed himself into a pink-lipsticked choreographed rock video nightmare, C. Thomas Howell’s character was actually watching MTV and not “Night Flight.”

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The summer ’84 movie season was one of the most memorable in box office history, with movies like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Karate Kid, Sixteen Candles, Revenge of the Nerds, The Natural, Purple Rain, Red Dawn, Conan the Destroyer, Sheena, Beat Streat, Breakin’, C.H.U.D., and Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in America (among others) all being released between Friday, May 4th, and Labor Day, September 3rd.

That may be one reason why Grandview U.S.A. — released into theaters on August 3, 1984 — failed to even re-coup on its $5 million budget.

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The dance sequences — one blogger says the “scene where Howell imagines himself and Curtis in an MTV music video reminds us of everything that is cringe-worthy about what we wore and listened to in the 80s” — were reportedly tacked on at the insistence of the film’s domestic distributors.

That may be one reason why they’re so much fun to watch thirty-plus years later.

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According to an article in the Bloomington, Illinois-published Pantagraph (August 19, 1984), the film’s editor Scott Hancock was particularly fond of  the “punk rock video version” (?) of “Steely Man” because of the “technical difficulty of shooting the dance routine among a dozen popcorn storage bins south of Pontiac along Old U.S. 66.”

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Musker was a prolific British songwriter who had penned songs for loads of ’70s/’80s artists, including Sheena Easton, the Babys (his “Back on My Feet Again” was their last Top Forty hit), Air Supply and Queen‘s song “Too Much Love Will Kill You.”

“Steely Man” was the first time he was credited as a solo artist, but we’re pretty sure that guy singing in the video here is not Musker, it’s D.C. Larue, best known for contributing to the soundtracks to 1978’s St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Thank God It’s Friday.

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Read more about Grandview U.S.A. below.

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Like Footloose (released in February ’84) and Flashdance (released a year earlier, in April ’83), the plot of Grandview, U.S.A. is a clunky, coming-of-age teen melodrama-cum-love story, set in a fictitious small midwestern hamlet (a “quirky romantic comedy set in a town like no other” says the DVD box cover).

Jamie Lee Curtis is “Michelle ‘Mike’ Cody,” a 27-year old tough-acting tomboy mechanic who inherits Cody’s Speedrome, her family’s down-and-out demolition derby, which is losing money and not up to code.

She’s trying to avoid selling the property because corrupt politicians and developers want to build a new shopping mall to give the local townies a place to blow their paychecks every weekend.

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Patrick Swayze is “Ernie “Slam” Webster, a likeable dullard and Mike’s star demolition driver (he’s “just as fast as he is reckless”).

C. Thomas Howell is “Tim Pearson,” a naïve eighteen year-old recent high school grad and class valedictorian, just itching to flee the boredom of his dull blue-collar burg (his father is a local realtor working with the aforementioned “civic leaders”).

Curtis, Howell and Swayze — who gets the movie’s best line, when he’s drunk and can’t fuck, saying “I couldn’t get it up right now if you were a pair of twins in a vat of Mazola oil!” — end up in an unlikely romantic triangle, leading to “hilarious and heart-wrenching consequences.”

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Among the cardboard cut-out supporting characters there are familiar faces like Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Swayze’s slutty wife), Troy Donahue, M. Emmet Walsh, William Windom, and John Cusack and sister Joan as “Johnny and Mary Maine.”

Michael Winslow, the sound effects guy from 1984’s Police Academy shows up as an announcer at the derby, and legendary deejay Steve Dahl — who hosted the ill-fated 1979 Disco Demolition at Chicago’s Comiskey Park — appears as “Moose Shook.”

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Believe it or not, Cher was originally signed to play the role of “Mike,” but she backed out of the project and went on to star in Mask instead, playing the motorcycle mama to Rocky Dennis, that kid with craniodiaphysical dysplasia.

Jamie Lee Curtis, meanwhile, has said that Grandview U.S.A. was the second worst she’s ever been in.

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Director Randal Kleiser — who’d directed Grease and the Brooke Shields tropical island epic, Blue Lagoon, as well as Summer Lovers, the disastrous menage a trois tale set in Greece — lensed Grandview U.S.A. in Fairbury and Pontiac in southern Illinois, mostly using pre-existing locations, including Fiesta Motel and adjoining bowling alley, located on the northeast corner of four-lane Route 66 and Illinois Route 116.

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Everyone’s favorite ’80s band Air Supply (okay, we’re kidding) supply the cheery title tune “Take Me Home to Grandview, U.S.A.” (it plays at the beginning and end of the movie), while Jack Mack & the Heart Attack, Falco, Eddie & the Tide, the Pointer Sisters and a few others provide some of this musical movie’s other songs.

Despite having a handful of recognizable names, the film’s soundtrack was never given a legit soundtrack CD release.

Watch this uncut three-hour episode of “Night Flight” — complete with the original TV commercials — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.